When we were kids, we played “in the moment”. We loved playing because of the excitement and the pure thrill it gave us. Today, as parent’s, we know that play is important in the daily life of a child. Time for unstructured play and recess has diminished in our kids school days. School administrators worry about safety, lost instructional time and supervision of kids. They don’t see that recess is a good way for kids to spend their time.
The good news is that awareness about the benefits of self directed play among children is increasing. Parents are demanding changes in their kid’s school days.We are convincing school boards and administrators to put recess back into our kid’s day. We want kids to reap the benefits of self directed play that WE had as kids. AND…. we are coming armed to school administrators with data to make it happen.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics supports play, saying that it is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical and social emotional well being of children and youth.
- Independent research shows that recess improves kid’s attention while they do their academic work.
- Research in public health points to recess as possibly providing activity that reduces childhood obesity.
- Researchers argue that because kids think in a functional way. Kids play is “best suited for the free play settings” that recess provides.
In our heart of hearts, we know that all these reasons don’t touch the truth about the value of playing. The lasting effects of the interactions our kids have during recess are not measured on any paper and pencil test. The play and the activities that kids create themselves during recess, influence their developing characters.
Kids play baseball, hockey, 4 square,soccer etc and discover that being engaged in a team efforts is exhilarating and worth the bleeding knees or bruises that become badges of their courage.
Oh, there are tears. But there is laughter and joy too. The lumps, bumps and challenges of playing develop our kid’s temperament as well as the quality of their character.
Kids discover what they like to do and who they are.They develop a sense of honesty and fair play.They learn to get along with other kids and their accomplishments speak for themselves. They understand the motives and feelings of other kids. They learn how to negotiate with others and diffuse tricky situations. Their future successes depend on how well they learn to play and get along with others in play.
Today is Global School Play Day. But play isn’t just for the schoolyard.As parents, we help our kids when we play with them.
National Play Outside Day is a movement with one simple goal: to get friends and families to play together. Yes..just go outside and do something fun with your friends and family. Being a great parent is as easy as that! Play with your kids. It’s an investment that gives you an outstanding return. You contribute to the healthy self esteem of your kids.
Saturday February 7 2015 is the next National Play Outside Day. Mark it on the calendar. Make playing together a monthly tradition.
At this time of the year, I imagined all the leaves on the ground yelling” Pick me up! Play with me!”
Chances are, when you and your kids go outside, a collection of stones, sticks and leaves comes home with you. Outdoor experiences give us and our kids the opportunity to explore,to think and to feel. We get an emotional connection when we interact with nature. We develop our own understandings of who we are and how we work within the world.
For kids 2-6 years old, leaf prints are always fun to do. Here’s a link that shows you how to do that, step by step with your kids. If you haven’t discovered an online blogger called B-Inspired Mama,she posts tons of arts and crafts ideas for this age group so that kids learn through play and hands- on projects.
Look what else you can do with leaves!
For kids 7-12 years old, take collecting leaves a step further and challenge their attention to details. Collect the leaves with the purpose in mind of using them to create an animal mosaic. Your outdoor trek turns into an art AND a science project.(Sohi). You will develop your kids vocabulary,fine motor skills, body of content knowledge, artist’s eye, an ecological ethic and the joy of connecting with nature’s marvels,through play.
First, take your kids to the library to find books and magazine with lots of animal pictures.
Here are 3 tips to develop a unique art and crafts project using leaves with your kids.
1. Develop Vocabulary
Help kids look for leaves of different sizes, shapes and colors and develop new vocabularies like: -star-shaped, heart shaped, fan shaped, long, narrow and needle shaped, saw-toothed, lobe like or oval. Challenge your kids imagination.
2. Train their Eyes
Encourage the kids to look for tiny leaves that could be used for eyes, beaks, paws, tails or a nose. Collect material that could be used to suggest a setting for their animal.
3. Include science.
Explain the life cycle of leaf and the production of chlorophyll that results in the leaf’s green color.
4. Keep it Real!
Turn the kids work into something of value and share it. Turn their art work into a stationary card and send it off to a friend,cousin, grandma or grandad.They are sure to love it.
Rivkin, M., & Schein, D. (2014). The great outdoors: Advocating for natural spaces for young children (Rev. ed.). Washington, DC:
National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Sohi, M. (1993). Look What I Did with A Leaf! New York: Walker and Company.